Four Characteristics of Successful Logos


When it comes to business, return on investment is the driving force behind almost any expenditure whether that be hiring a marketing assistant, purchasing new laptops for your sales team or hiring a design firm to create your next direct marketing campaign. While it’s easy to create metrics that measure the effectiveness of your latest email campaign, how do you measure the value of logo design?

For starters, logo and visual identity design rarely provide immediate results that are quantifiable. As an integral part of your brand a logo should last at least 5-10 years, and as such it helps to measure the success of your logo according to the four common traits of every successful logo — differentiation, flexibility, simplicity and memorability.

Fly Your Freak Flag

First and foremost, your logo must be differentiated. I don’t recommend being different just to be shocking, but in order to be a leader you do need to lead. Having a logo that looks similar to another company, or worse, your competitor will leave your target audience confused about who you are. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to either OfficeMax of OfficeDepot, and not known which one I’m in. Aside from the names being too close, both logos cram the words together in a similar font, and the store interiors are nearly identical. I was happy when Staples opened in my area, because I don’t get them confused with the other two. It’s risky to be different, but not nearly as risky as being the same.

Office Depot and OfficeMax logos

Stretch Your Brand Muscle

Every logo should work in black and white, at the size of a spitwad as well as the size of a billboard. By building this flexibility into your logo from the beginning you’ll be ensuring a healthier life span, and ease of use. It’s not uncommon to realize a couple of years after your slick, gloss logo premieres on your new website that you may want to embroider the logo on hats or employee shirts. How do you run a gradient or recreate that nice glossy highlight on your logo in thread? Keep your design limber, and you’ll have less injuries in future application.

Unilever logo black & white and small

Trim the Visual Fat

Just to clarify simple doesn’t mean it was just thrown together in a few minutes. It means stripping out the unnecessary shapes. The simpler your logo design the more flexible it is, and you’ll see an increase in memorability as well. Start by removing details of your logo mark. Determine what isn’t needed to support the silhouette, or help legibility. Keep subtracting shapes until your logo becomes unrecognizable, and then take a step back from there. Save the intricate illustrative work for your marketing materials where it’s more appropriate.

Evolution of the simplicity of the Shell logo

Leave an Impression

Brand adoption is dependent upon how memorable your whole brand experience is. At the center of your brand is your visual identity and logo design. Your customers should easily recall the look of your identity just by mentioning the company name or even the product category. Our brain doesn’t store data in large chunks, so simplicity and differentiation should help drive recall. After years of successful implementation brands like Target and more recently Starbucks are able to rely solely on their logo mark as a identifier. The less memorable your logo design the harder your marketing materials will have to work to constantly remind consumers of who you are. You don’t want that, and you’re customers don’t want that.

Starbucks logo old and new

Judge your logo against these four criteria, and you’re on the right track to having a successful brand life cycle. Aesthetics, and whether you like or dislike your logo design are irrelevant to your ROI. When designed to incorporate differentiation, flexibility, simplicity and memorability an aesthetically pleasing design should be a natural byproduct.

To learn more about some common mistakes in logo design check out our article “Eight Reasons Why Your Logo Hates You.”

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